AUGUSTA — The U.S. Department of Education this week announced that 10 states had received approval to bypass oft-maligned provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind law.
The state of Maine may soon attempt to join them. A spokesman for the state DOE said Friday that Commissioner Stephen Bowen will announce Monday whether Maine will apply Feb. 21 for the next round of waivers from the law.
Bowen has been an outspoken critic of the 10-year-old law, in particular, provisions that assign school effectiveness ratings to student math and reading proficiency based on their performance on standardized testing. Bowen has said student achievement should be measured by individual growth, rather than by how many students test at their grade level.
"Let us begin looking at where was the student when he or she came through the door," Bowen told the Sun Journal last year. "Let's track that growth, and let's assess the success of teachers and administrations based on how much growth” students had.
Other education commissioners agree, as do many state superintendents.
President Barack Obama announced Thursday that Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee were exempt. If Maine attempts to join them, it will have to establish its own accountability system that measures student progress, teacher and administrative evaluation standards tied to student achievement, and methods of tracking school performance.
DOE spokesman David Connerty-Marin said that unlike the states that received waivers this week, Maine has never had an established accountability system.
"We would have to essentially build one from scratch," he said.
Earlier this week, Bowen and Gov. Paul LePage unveiled a four-pronged education reform plan that includes teacher evaluation.
Maine would have to take additional steps to achieve a NCLB waiver.
In March 2010, the Obama administration submitted a "blueprint for reform" to Congress. The blueprint includes states adopting college and career-ready standards, evaluation methods that go beyond standardized testing and include peer review, student work or parent and student feedback.
In a press release, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the current law drives down standards, weakens accountability, causes narrowing of the curriculum and labels too many schools as failing.
“Rather than dictating educational decisions from Washington, we want state and local educators to decide how to best meet the individual needs of students,” Duncan said in prepared remarks.
Ten of the 11 states that applied during the last cycle received waivers. The application by New Mexico was denied. Several states received conditional waivers that will require additional collaboration with the federal government.